By: Samantha Harton
Ryan Meier looks like a rockstar. Clad in a white, red-striped leather jacket and tight black pants, he drops to his knees on the small stage of the Middle East Corner, his fingers moving tightly along the strings of his red guitar. Soon his face is unrecognizable as a mess of blonde hair that rivals Kurt Cobain’s covers his face completely and other heads nod in approval.
Meier fronts the Boston indie-rock band Cherry Mellow, accompanied by drummer Peter Geiser. Various guitarists and bassists have come in to help out during live shows and recordings, but right now, it’s just the two of them that are willing to commit. “I think that’s part of the reason the other band members left,” he says. “They didn’t want to pursue this the way we wanted to.” But Meier is determined to find two more “mellows” to create a cohesive, four-man band.
In a Boloco near the Berklee College of Music, Meier’s face is visible again as he shoves his hair out of his eyes with both hands. “My dad can’t carry a tune,” he laughs, recalls his unlikely entry into the music world. He claims to have started playing guitar at 14-years-old, as opposed to many of the other students at Berklee who pride themselves on having learned to play their respective instruments before they reached double digits. Although he started with a jazz style, he has fully indulged in the rock music scene. “That’s where I belong.”
He started singing after he had picked up the guitar. “I sucked, a lot,” he says smiling as he reminisces about his first tries at being the lead singer of a three-man band. But after singing in his band for the past few years, you would never know that he was once an amateur. When he’s on stage, he looks like a natural, but it took years of practice to really become comfortable with his voice. Meier says, “I just booked myself at a lot of places and got to just pour my heart out. When you’re saying words and singing, that’s your whole body. I feel a deeper connection with singing than I do with guitar.”
Finding a place in Boston’s competitive music scene has been difficult for Meier and Geiser, especially going to a music school like Berklee where everyone is working on some sort of music project — many of which are a lot like theirs. Meier says it can be really hard to land bar gigs around Boston unless you have the right connections. The scene itself can even get “cliquey.”
Don’t be fooled by Meier’s humble attitude towards Cherry Mellow, however. Geissler and Meier have performed in well-known venues like the Middle East and TT the Bears and have traveled to Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to play shows. They don’t fit easily into one genre, but Meier particularly likes to refer to their sound as “heavy mellow.” He explains, “Our stuff is pretty laid-back, easy to sway to, but when you see us live, its super loud and in your face.”
And he’s not wrong about that. Seeing Cherry Mellow live is an experience. Their intense set is almost unrecognizable from their mellow EP Take a Lick, and when they cover “Come a Little Closer,”you could almost mistake Meier for Cage the Elephant’s Matt Shultz. Even without the consistency of a solid four-man band, Geissler and Meier are able to fill whatever venue they are playing with a unique kind of energy.
Its hard to believe a lot of that energy was created in a tiny bathroom, where mics, amps, instruments, and bodies were shoved in between a toilet, a sink, and a shower to record the music Cherry Mellow shares on stage. But for Low Hanging Fruit, the band’s upcoming EP, they are moving out away from “the john” and towards a professional studio. With the help of Emerson College’s “Beat Dynamics Crew,” they’ve also released a music video for their single “TV.”
Meier’s career at the Berklee School of Music will come to a close after his last semester in the fall of 2015, but that doesn’t mean the end for Cherry Mellow. Meier claims that Boston really hasn’t done much for them with its high rent and exclusive bar scene, so they plan to take their sound somewhere cheaper like Philadelphia. For Meier, the dream would be to make it to the Midwest. “Every band has a little piece of the country that they wanna go back to because people just love us and eat it up,” he says. “For us, that’s Ohio.” While touring, Cherry Mellow has made its way out to Athens, Ohio, where they have found the crowds to be extremely receptive to their sound and the music scene to be exactly what Meier is looking for.
During the next few months, you’ll be able to find Geiser and Meier touring all around the Northeast, as they’ve booked shows in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and other New England locations. Right now, Cherry Mellow is a Massachusetts gem that few of us have been lucky enough to stumble upon. But with new music coming out this spring and solid summer tour dates, they’re going to be hard to miss.
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